My Girls' Best Test Kitchen Sugar Cookies

March 30, 2010
Photo by James Ransom
Author Notes

If my kids don't like them I don't care who has tested them. LOL. We love America's Test Kitchen and are happy about this challenge. These remind me very much of my grandmother's sugar cookies and somehow no one seems to have the recipe. Maybe memory is better served here. I used a whole vanilla bean and scraped out the seeds. Do not throw away the empty pod. Put it in a quart jar and fill it with sugar. Put a lid on it roll it around and store. Next time you make these cookies or anything sweet that gets a sugar coating, you will have a very special addition, vanilla sugar. I don't like vegetable shortening for the most part but I also know it helps to give a tender chewy crumb, so I used a small amount in addition to the butter. —thirschfeld

Test Kitchen Notes

Golden and crumbly around the edges and soft and chewy within, these cookies are gently flavored with real vanilla seeds, nutmeg, honey and just the right amount of salt to enhance the other players without taking over the field. The combination of regular and cake flour, and butter (lots) and shortening (a little -- we used non-hydrogenated) makes for a rich, tender dough that spreads and crisps nicely but doesn't lose all of its structure. We recommend chilling the cookie dough for 20 to 30 minutes before rolling -- it will make your job a bit easier. We used dark baking sheets, so we lowered the oven temperature to 350 so the cookies wouldn't bake too quickly. - A&M —The Editors

  • Serves 2 dozen
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup cake flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt; if you sub table salt, cut it to 1/4 teaspoon
  • 1 cup sugar, divided
  • 3/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped
  • 12 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 4 tablespoons vegetable shortening
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tablespoon honey, something with citrus notes is good
  • 1/2 cup sugar for rolling the cookies
In This Recipe
  1. Make sure you have an oven rack placed dead in the middle of your oven. Preheat the oven to 375° F. In a mixing bowl combine both flours, baking powder, and salt. Stir it with the measuring spoon to mix.
  2. Place the sugar, nutmeg, and vanilla seeds into the bowl of a mixer and mix for two minutes to distribute. Turn off the mixer and add the butter and shortening. I use cold butter (when I squeeze it it just gives) because I personally think it creams better. You do not want this to look granular and you don't want the fat to break out and look similar to cottage cheese either.: It should look like ice cream just scooped from the container. Start out on low speed and when the butter starts to cream, gradually increase the speed to medium and cream for about 2 minutes total.
  3. Scrape down the sides with a spatula. Add the egg and mix to combine. Add the honey and mix briefly.
  4. Adding the flour in thirds, to keep it from flying out of the mixing bowl, mix at low speed and mix until all is incorporated. Scrape down the sides of the bowl if necessary.
  5. Place the remaining half cup of sugar into a separate bowl. Line two 12- by 17-inch baking sheet pans with parchment paper.
  6. Using a tablespoon or a number-40 scoop, scoop out some dough. Using your hands, roll it into a ball and then roll it around in the sugar until coated. Place it onto the baking sheet. Repeat until you have 12 cookies on the tray. Using a fork, flatten the cookies to about a 1/2-inch thickness.
  7. Place tray into the oven and set the timer for 10 minutes. While they are cooking, roll and coat the remaining twelve cookies. When the timer goes off, check the cookies. They should be browning at the edges but still light in the middle. If they're not, leave them in the oven for another few minutes. Remove them and let them cool for 3 to 5 minutes before moving them to a cooling rack to finish cooling. Place the other tray of cookies into the oven and repeat this step.

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